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TV Tonight: Damages Comes Back, While Ted Danson Moves on to CSI

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Damages returns for a fourth season on DirecTV last night tonight. I’ve previewed some of the new season, guest-starring John Goodman as a defense contractor embroiled in scandal, but the show has become a little like legal 24 for me: lots of talent and strong performances, but it has increasingly seemed to strain to up its stakes in its one-case-a-season format. I’ll keep one eye on it for a while, but if any longtime fans checked check out the debut, I’m curious to know what you think. [Update: Sorry–Damages returns tonight, July 13; I had a typo in the calandar I use to keep track of debuts. Hazard of watching shows on screeners.]

Meanwhile, there was some fortuitously related late-breaking news last night, as CBS announced that Damages alum Ted Danson will take over for Laurence Fishburne on CSI.

Strictly on the basis of talent, it seems like a strong move for CSI, which is still important to the network even if its ratings are not as dominant as they were a decade ago. It will be curious, though, to see how the audience receives Danson in the role. He’s one of the most versatile actors in TV; not only does he have a strong drama background in movies, he’s able to do everything from drama (Damages, which earned him a deserved Emmy nomination) to traditional sitcom (Cheers, Becker) to cable comedy (Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bored to Death).

But as far as the bigger TV audience is concerned, Danson may still be Sam from Cheers; he’s a fantastic actor, but its a more boutique-sized audience that knows him for drama. I have no doubt he’s up for the job as a performer; whether a bigger audience wants to see him that way is the question.

More important to me, though, is that Danson will be able to keep his job on Bored to Death, where his vain but poignant magazine editor George is one of the best comic creations of recent years. Which Ted Danson(s) will you be watching?